What is Ralph insinuating when he says "be sucking my thumb next"?

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coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Ralph is likening the de-civilization of the boys to a gradual stripping away of all the layers of civilization and learning milestones of etiquette and society to aging backwards (a bit like in the short story 'The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald where a baby is born as an old man!)

He is a clever,observant and perceptive lad who is beginning to see 'pattern.' He has noted the pattern of behaviour that has formed so far and has now developed the powers of prediction and can see where this is all going - downhill. He can see a time coming,not far off,when the boys uncontrollable behaviour will reflect that of savages or ignorant uneducated babies. In 'Lord of the Flies' Golding has him and some of the others saved just before this happens in extremis.

mkcapen1's profile pic

mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

In the story "Lord of the Flies" the author, William Golding uses literary color to envelop the reader into the emotions and experiences of the boys on the Island.  The boys slowly see the social behaviors taught through civilization falling away.

The character of Ralph, is the good leader, who represtent the lessons one would hope that the other boys would continue to guide them as time progress on the island.  Ralph represents social order and stability in a strange and uncontrollable environment. 

While Ralph displays qualities of a good leader, he only identifies his weaknesses and is even more upset as his own appearance and cleanliness changes.  He is upset with the bizarre behavior of the other boys.  Because he can no keep himself together in the way he would like, he makes the statement ""Be sucking my thumb next" found on page 109 of the text.  He states this in response indicating that he is going backwards at not being able to care properly for himself and wonders how far he will regress.  He does not really think he will begin sucking his thumb but he uses it as a metaphor to show how badly circumstances have regressed.

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